Dozens of parishioners gathered outside the Roman Catholic Church Sunday to support a parish priest who has been accused of molesting a girl nearly two decades ago.

Catholics in Grand Bay held cardboard placards saying "Our parish priest has to stay" and chanting their support for Monsignor Reginald Lafleur, who they referred to as "Father Reggie."

The 59-year-old priest was put on administrative leave after a woman alleged that he touched her inappropriately on her "bottom and breast" and made "sweet eyes" at her 19 years ago when she was a 12-year-old parishioner. The woman made the accusations against Lafleur in a series of letters to Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, the head of the diocese.

Malzaire has sent the accuser to Trinidad & Tobago for counselling as a local church panel investigates her allegations. He has not stated publicly why he decided to send her for counselling in Trinidad.

On Sunday, members of a church committee insisted Lafleur was innocent of the accusations and met privately with the bishop, who performed the morning Mass at the Grand Bay church to mostly empty pews. Most of the parishioners remained outside, milling about and holding placards.

Edward Registe, a member of the local church committee, told the crowd of protesters that Malzaire had said the investigation into the accusations against the parish priest would take another month at least. The demonstrators chanted, "We want Father Reggie back now!"